Friday, December 01, 2006


If you read this blog, you will know that one of my pet gripes is the sorry state of journalism in the United States. Human interest, trivia, celebrity gossip, missing white girls, sports, weather.... that's pretty much it. And then there's Nancy Grace... let's not even go there!

But delving deeper, the Washington Post's Dan Froomkin ponders the particular problems of political journalism. He contends that the success of people like John Stewart and Stephen Colbert (and indeed his own column) is that they can detect and expose bullshit. Sounds, pretty basic, no? But mainstream journalists are always pushing a false equivalency between two different views, ascribing equal value to all sides, whether the truth or an outlandish claim. A group of Republicans tell lies about John Kerry's war record, with no factual basis, and yet the media treats both sides seriously. The overwhelming majority of scientists accept the premise of global warming, and yet the media will give equal airtime to some energy industry-funded crank. It goes on and on.

Of course, this tendency is of immense advantage to the modern Republican party, which has mastered the art of bullshit. A more sophisticated way of saying the same thing is that they have wholeheartedly embraced postmodernism and its denial of objective truth. It's funny, many conservatives gripe about the moral relativism on the other side, not realizing that its most cynical manifestation is found in their own backyard. One puzzling feature of this situation is the fact that most journalists are themselves political liberals, and yet go out of their way to treat the latest Republican "bullshit" seriously. Explanations abound, including the corporatization of the media, and an ethic underpinned by an extreme concept of balance. But I think there could be more to it. Perhaps journalists are also comfortable with the denial of objective truth, the worst aspect of contemporary liberalism inculcated by some of the best humanities departments. Hence they fall unwittingly into the Republican trap....

1 comment:

Todd said...

My friend, it's not so much a question of treating silly opinions fairly, but generating the maximum income for the corporate masters.

This fuss over Matt Lauer announcing "civil war" on NBC--I don't get angry about these things; like Stewart and Colbert, I can't help laughing at them.

But even so, NBC waited till the elctions were over, and we began getting hints about the Iraq commission's leanings. That network has positioned itself, sort of like being the first to call a political race, to gain attention, therefore viewers, therefore sponsors.

What is the expression? Money talks and BS walks? Western media is more about talking than walking ... though it does walk from time to time.